Do you have a TV show, comic book, film or game that you’re just crazy about? If so, then you may have bored your real-life friends half to death talking about it, but on the Internet, it’s a different story. Online, you can find other people who are as passionate about your fandom as you are. Outsiders can be disparaging about fan communities, but when you’re on the inside, you know that there’s nowhere more fun to spend your time. Part of the reason for this is that the community members make a huge amount of effort to share ideas, collect new information and create stories and art. Could you contribute like that, or even better, host your own online community? Here are some ideas on how you can create a fan website that would put you at the center of it all.
Find a hook
Whether you’re into Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Men, Marvel Avengers or any other of the big fan favorites out there, the first challenge that you’ll face is doing something that hasn’t been done before. There are a lot of fan websites out there, so what will make people want to visit yours? Perhaps you can use your special expertise to give it an unusual angle – say, by focusing on technical issues, an underappreciated character or on the way that music is used. This doesn’t preclude talking about other things, but it helps to get people’s attention. If you find that people are impressed by your opinions and insights, then you could make your fan website more personal and embed your YouTube videos so that visitors can enjoy what you have to say on other topics.
Get the look
Most big fan communities are based around highly visual subjects, so it’s vital that your site has lots of pictures. A good place to start with this is by writing to the relevant PR companies to see if they’re willing to share content with you. You can usually find creator-approved pictures with a simple Google search, or you can get high-quality stock photos to help your site make a better impression. You can scan in your own artwork and invite visitors to share their art with you. Make sure that you have a good, responsive web design so that an extensive use of images doesn’t create problems for people looking at your site on their phones. Also, think about how the colors in your basic site design are going to look next to the predominant colors in the images that you’re likely to be using. On a Superman site, for instance, you would need your color scheme to work with blue and red.
Get savvy about news
Perhaps the single biggest reason that people visit fan websites is to find out the latest news and gossip, ideally before other people do. If you want your site to be popular, then you’ll need a news section, and you’ll need to keep it busy. This will also help boost your search engine rankings. Including a news section presents you with two problems: getting access to news and verifying that it’s true. Rumors can be fun, but if you get a reputation for publishing completely unreliable ones, then people will lose interest in your site. The best thing to do here, again, is to get to know the relevant PRs, but you can also give yourself an advantage by building up contacts with connections to the fandom that you love. They don’t have to be famous – a janitor who works in the building where a show is recorded can sometimes be a great source of news.
Create and interact
Ultimately, any good news stories that you get hold of will be repeated elsewhere, and people will lose interest in them when they’re no longer fresh, so you’ll also need compelling features on your site. Don’t be shy about asking actors, artists or other creative talents for interviews. Even if they only give you a few words, you could spin those out into an article that will get a lot of attention. You can also do well by being willing to stir up a bit of controversy. Ranked lists, for instance, always draw people in, and they’ll likely start arguing with you and each other in the comments section. Cultivate your commentators, even when you routinely disagree with them, because the sense of interaction that they create will give your site a great deal of energy and keep people coming back.
No matter how carefully you set them up, fan sites take a lot of effort to maintain if you want to stay ahead of the competition. If you’re up for this, then you may find that looking after it soon becomes addictive and that it helps you get closer to the object of your obsession than ever before.